LIFE

I Went Barefoot For A Week, And This Is How My Feet Fared

by Desirée O

I have always hated socks. I find them tight, binding, and totally uncomfortable. When I’m forced to wear them, I choose thin ankle socks and peel them off the moment I get home. As for shoes — although I can appreciate a stylish high heel and have been known to drool over a sexy boot — I usually slip on flip-flops or Converse in my day-to-day life. And even those choices become an issue for my super-narrow, arch-less flat feet.

Perhaps my tootsie-related quirks are why I prefer to go barefoot. If I could hang out with my toes out in the open at all times, I’d be thrilled. However, that’s not a practical choice, especially for someone like myself who lives in a bustling city. And despite the fact that I work from home, everyday tasks like errands and appointments mean that I’m regularly beating the streets with my feet.

But what would it be like to become a full foot nudist? Is it possible to totally reject socks and shoes?

Dr. A. K. Misra of US Healthworks says that “it is more consistent with our evolutionary history to be barefoot, dating back to our transitioning from bipedal mammals to Cro-Magnon man, to our current form as a human species. Footwear of any kind is a relatively new phenomenon that mainly came out of necessity for protective purposes against injury only, and wasn’t done for comfort and certainly not for fashion purposes.”

“Most of our human history was indeed spent barefoot and there are several schools of thought that we are missing out on health benefits we would be getting by having our skin touch soil, sand, clay, and other natural surfaces because certain earth minerals can be absorbed via the skin,” Dr. Misra added.

However, the medical professional also explained that there can be a downside. “When people with an active lifestyle switch to barefoot walking, problems can arise. Walking barefoot results in the engagement of muscles in the leg compartments that often are not highly engaged when wearing conventional footwear. Thus, participating in a physical activity while barefoot (walking, jogging, running) may cause one to experience sore muscles in their legs, particularly in the calves.”

Armed with the knowledge that there are both benefits and drawbacks to going without shoes or socks (but not knowing what else to expect), I attempted to go barefoot for an entire week. This is how I (and my feet) fared.

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My aversion to socks is so well-known among my friends and family that they give me snazzy socks as presents to make wearing them more bearable. I have Frida Kahlo socks, psychedelic socks, and more argyle socks than you can imagine. But along with my easy-breezy flip-flops and reliable Chucks, I had to bid them all adieu for a week.

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I usually have my toenails painted, but I decided that if my feet were going to be out and about all week, I might as well apply a fresh coat of a snazzy color. Red seemed the obvious choice.

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Day one started out easily enough and, as I kicked up my feet to catch up on some baseball, going barefoot didn’t seem like a challenge at all. But take a look at the little face between my feet. That’s my tiny (but persistent) Chihuahua telling me that he needs to go out for a walk.

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While I occasionally step outside of my house without shoes on, I never walk around the block in bare feet, which is exactly what I did as my tiny pup pulled me along. Thankfully, I didn’t run into any of my neighbors, but I definitely had a response ready if I came across any curious stares.

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Each step I took made me aware of the relatively clean condition of my neighborhood. However, there were still plenty of sticks and stones that might not break my bones — but they still hurt my toes.

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On the second day, it rained briefly, and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to spend some time in my backyard enjoying the wet ground. Walking on grass in my bare feet was lovely and made me feel like a kid who was running around in a park (even though in actuality I was wandering slowly).

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I was very aware of where I was stepping, much more so than usual, which meant that I noticed things I might not have seen otherwise. Like a patch of tiny mushrooms that had popped up, perhaps with the rain.

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I enjoyed walking around my backyard so much that I went out again the next morning after another rainfall. I hadn’t quite finished my coffee, and apparently the caffeine hadn’t kicked in because I definitely wasn’t as aware of what was under my feet. Prickly weeds hurt.

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Our back deck needs to be refinished, and it’s a little rough in spots, which means that it wasn’t any nicer to my feet than the prickly weeds. Splinters also hurt.

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By the fourth day, I was becoming annoyed with the limitations of shoeless-ness. Normal activities became impossible because there were some places that I just couldn’t go. For instance, each evening I dump scraps in our composter and grab water from the rain barrel for the garden. But since both the composter and rain barrel are beyond a section of rocks, getting to them was not going to happen without serious damage to my feet.

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On day five, I faced the issue of errands. My husband volunteered to drive, since it’s awkward to drive without shoes. When we got to the store, I had to stay behind because not only was I unwilling to walk through the dirty parking lot with nothing on my feet, but the store had a not-unusual “no shoes, no shirt, no service” policy.

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On day six, I faced every parent’s nightmare — I almost stepped on Legos! Having one of those tiny little blocks of plastic embedded into the soft spot of your foot’s arch is more painful than prickly weeds and splinters combined.

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By the end of the week, my feet needed a little TLC in the form of a hot foot bath. Although I was thrilled that I hadn’t stubbed a toe once, my feet were sore thanks to seven days of walking around without any cushioning or protection.

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By the end of my shoeless experiment, I had mixed feelings about being barefoot 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In some ways, it felt freeing. I was able to dash around without worrying about sliding on shoes, and I loved how unconfined my feet felt. But on the other hand, I was restricted by where I could go and what I could do. Also, it was downright painful at times.

As long as feet remain vulnerable, stores reject the shoeless, and gorgeous stilettos still exist, I’m sure we as a society (and me personally) won’t be ditching shoes completely any time soon.